By: Tennie Sumague
EBC New York Bureau
BROOKLYN (Eagle News) – Despite being surrounded by light drama and the absence of Joel Embiid with a left sore knee, Philadelphia 76ers point guard, Ben Simmons orchestrated a phenomenal performance at Barclays Center with the help Tobias Harris and JJ Reddick’s explosive offense. The trio combined for a total of 86 points, clobbering the Brooklyn Nets 131-115 on Thursday.
Postseason NBA basketball returned to New York’s most populated borough for the first time since 2015. With fans bleeding black and white, the rowdy crowd kept taunting the reigning Rookie of the Year, Simmons in every possession. The All-Star fed off the crowd’s negative vibes with his organic style of playmaking, finishing with 31 points on 11-for-13 shooting, complemented with nine assists, four rebounds, three blocks, two steals, and went 9-for-11 from the free throw line.
Simmons and Embiid made headlines for their Game 2 postgame laughing fiasco on Embiid’s apology to Nets center, Jarrett Allen on a flagrant foul. Their reaction did not sit well with the Nets players, feeling a sense of disrespect. This resulted in a series of verbal spats, including criticism from Nets reserve, Jared Dudley, calling Simmons just “average” on half-court.
Before the start of the game, a “missing” sign was posted across Barclays Center, poking fun at Simmons’ jump shot. The poster jokingly rewarded anyone $26,620,4420, the salary of Simmons rookie contract to find it.
Despite the scrutiny and Dudley’s comments, the Sixers star was ready to move forward.
“I don’t have energy for that,” Simmons said. “Honestly, it’s done. People are gonna say what they wanna say. It is what it is. I’ve just got to play.”
Head Coach, Brett Brown centered on Simmons’ dominant performance, applauding his confidence.
“I think we forget that he’s 22-years old,” said Brown. “Whether he’s getting booed or there’s something else going on with some level of scrutinizing [him], he is tremendously confident with himself. He has put a tremendous amount of work apart from being so darn good. I’m so happy for him with the way he played tonight. He did it all, particularly without Joel Embiid.”
Harris finished with 29 points, 16 rebounds, and a perfect 6-for-6 from the 3-point line. Reddick contributed to 26 points, banking 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. According to ESPN stats and info, the trio became the first set of players from the Sixers to score 25+ points in a postseason game since 1978.
The Nets tried to keep up with the Sixers high-octane offense, cutting their 18-point deficit to six in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t execute when needed and faded the last five minutes of play. Much accredit goes to the Sixers defense, who stifled the Nets offense, shooting 20% behind the arc. Joe Harris, the NBA’s leading three-point percentage shooter during the regular season, was 0-for-4 from long range.
“I think they did an outstanding job defensively,” said Nets Head Coach, Kenny Atkinson. “Taking away Joe is huge. Not a good offensive performance on our part and I thought JJ’s run really got us off kilter defensively. When someone gets hot like that, the defense starts cheating and helping, and the other guys get off too. I thought it was a big part of the game.”
D’Angelo Russell and Caris Levert led the Nets with 26 points apiece. Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen both had 15 points.
The Sixers take a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4, which will be played at Barclays Center.
(Eagle News Service)